Marit Berger Røsland became the Norwegian Minister of EEA and EU Affairs on 20 October 2017, succeeding Frank Bakke-Jensen. In an interview with EFTA's Information Team, she shared her thoughts on the future development of trade relations, areas of improvement for the Internal Market and challenges regarding Brexit.
What is your sentiment/motivation for taking up this position in the current somewhat uncertain times?
I believe in the need for strong European cooperation to secure economic growth, handle migration and security challenges, meet the ambitious climate targets and secure a stable and free Europe. We live in uncertain times; however, I am confident that the strong cooperation structures developed ever since the Second World War will stand the test. But, we need to improve our communication of the positive effects of international cooperation.
What are the strengths and challenges for EFTA and the EFTA States in the years to come?
The four EFTA States share a strong commitment to free trade and an expanding network of free trade agreements with third countries. Today it includes 27 agreements covering 38 countries. We also have close relations with the European Union. Three of us: Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, are cooperating with the EU within the framework of the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, which also regulates trade between us. In the years to come we have to safeguard our positions on trade and economic integration both globally and at the European level.
As for the EEA, are there any areas for the improvement of the Internal Market that you hope to see in particular?
The European project remains strong despite numerous political and economic challenges over the past years. The EEA Agreement ensures Norway’s participation in the Internal Market. We cooperate closely in most policy areas and share the commitment to preserve and strengthen the integrity of the Internal Market.
One area of importance to Norway is the social dimension, in particular preventing and combatting work-related crime. We welcome closer cooperation at the European level on how efforts in various sectors such as police, taxation, social security and working life can contribute to solving challenges of work-related crime.
What is the most important area of interest for Norway when it comes to Brexit?
It is of direct interest to Norway that the EU and the United Kingdom succeed in negotiating an orderly withdrawal from the EU and a framework for their future relationship. Norway’s relationship with the EU stands firm. At the same time, we have strong economic, political and historical ties with the UK. Our objective is to continue as close and extensive cooperation as possible with the UK after its withdrawal from the EU.
If the EU and the UK agree on withdrawal terms pertaining to the Internal Market, we should find ways to extend these provisions to all EEA states and citizens. Likewise, any transitional arrangement that extends the application of the Internal Market rules in the UK for a time-limited period after the withdrawal should include all EEA states. To preserve the integrity of the Internal Market, the UK and the EEA EFTA states should agree on legal arrangements, which can enter into force at the same time as the withdrawal agreement between the EU and the UK.
Norway needs to establish a new legal framework for our relations with the UK. Solutions found between the EU and UK could be included in many cases in a future legal framework governing the relations between Norway and the UK.
What kind of work will Norway do in the upcoming year to ensure market access for seafood?
The new and expanded quotas to the EU agreed in 2015 run until the end of April 2021. We will start negotiations on further improvements for Norwegian seafood in the EU market in due time.
What would you like to see accomplished during your time as Minister for EEA and EU Affairs?
We share a common goal for Europe: to secure growth and prosperity for our citizens. My aim is to work systematically together with our partners in EFTA and the EU to ensure that the EEA Agreement functions well for the benefit of all, while at the same time safeguarding Norway’s interest in our cooperation with the EU. It is also my job to ensure that we are as well prepared as possible for discussing our future cooperation with the UK in specific terms as soon as the situation permits.
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